November 25, 2011

Car Talk

Husband's shifting method shouldn't hurt the car

Syndicated columnists

Dear Tom and Ray:

My 53-year-old husband drove like an old man in his 1997 Camry, but then he gave the car to one of our kids. He bought a 6-speed 2004 Acura TSX, and his driving habits changed drastically. He drives too fast in it, no longer stops for right turns on red or at stop signs, and takes all turns like a racecar driver. I've complained plenty, but to no avail! As we rocketed toward a freeway entrance, I told him, "Mark my words, you're going to get a speeding ticket." Well, he did, two days later, on Father's Day. He was clocked at 97 mph on a road posted at 55. The officer told him it was a fine example to be setting on Father's Day (our kids were in the car, too). That did slow him down a little, but his other bad driving habits remain. His latest -- and thankfully it's not a ticketable offense -- is to shift into second, then back into first before he takes off from a stop. He said he read that it's better for the transmission to do this. Is it? Has this car ruined him for life? Should I try harder to stifle my vociferous nature and just save money for any future tickets? What do you suggest? Please help!
-- Nikki

Tom: You have our sympathies, Nikki. Your husband has been automotively repressed for many years. And now that he's been "un-Camry-ed," he's cutting loose. Kind of like a new divorcee on a weekend in Las Vegas with the girls.

Ray: For years, he's been stuck driving a dull car, probably a dark-gray one. He's been shuffling the kids around, back and forth to soccer games and piano lessons. He's been losing his hair, expanding at the waist and having every woman under 40 call him "sir."

Tom: And suddenly, with this sportier new car, the dam broke. He's at a vulnerable age, Nikki. That's the age when men start to realize that their youth disappeared about 10 years ago. And they start grasping at ways to revive it. You've heard of the term "midlife crisis," right?

Ray: So I'd be tempted to advise you to let him act out, if it weren't for the speeding. Going 97 mph endangers his life, the lives of your kids and the lives of other innocent people on the road. So that's really got to stop. But if you get him to promise to obey the traffic laws and not do crazy stuff like that anymore, I'd let him shift gears all he wants.

Tom: If you really put your foot down (no pun intended) and make him stop, this craziness could find other, more disturbing or destructive outlets. Like his young secretary, Bubbles.

Ray: So, really, who cares if he shifts into second before shifting into first? It's probably not great for the transmission, but so what? At this rate, he'll probably drive into a telephone pole before the transmission goes, anyway.

Tom: So see if you can negotiate a compromise, Nikki. As long as he obeys all traffic laws, let him shift as often as he wants and corner as tightly as he pleases.

Ray: But if he signs up for Weight Watchers and shows up with hair plugs, start worrying again. Good luck, Nikki.

(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)

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